From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (Vol. 1) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:
“The maples are hardy ornamental trees or shrubs, with handsome large foliage which, in some species, shows a remarkable tendency to vary in shape and coloring. Numerous garden forms are in cultivation.
“Though the flowers are small, they are quite attractive in the early-flowering species…. [In] some species the young fruits assume a bright red color…. Nearly all assume & splendid color in autumn, especially the species of North America and Eastern Asia, which surpass by far the European maples…. The Japanese maples… are among the most striking and showy exotic small trees, and are adapted for fine grounds and for growing in pots.”
From Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:
“North American maples were brought to Europe during the 18th century. Maximovich was responsible for many introductions from the Russian Far East, Japan, and China. Plant hunting in southern and eastern China continued to bring in introductions, until virtually all species had been discovered and introduced by the early 20th century. The larger maples have proved popular as landscape trees, with the numerous smaller species proving to be successful garden plants. The diversity of the Asian species has led to much connoisseur interest in the West.
“East Asian Acer palmatum shows particularly high diversity. In Japan the first literary mentions were in the Nara period; it was certainly cultivated in the Heian, when the nobles would hold leaf-hunting competitions in the woods. Over 100 selections were made during the Edo period, with yellow leaves the most highly rated — a Chinese influence, as yellow was seen as the highest-status colour (and traditionally reserved for the emperor); 40 were specifically grown as bonsai. So central are maples to the Japanese autumn aesthetic that the word momichi, originally used to describe all autumn colour, came to be a synonym for kaede, the original word for maple.”
The photos below show two different varieties of Japanese Maple as they produce new leaves and get ready for spring. Both are large weeping shrubs that cascade over stone walls at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The last three photos are my favorites of this series: I caught them at just the right time to display some of their unusual shapes and intense colors, which will last only a day or two as the leaves unfold.
Thanks for taking a look!